They wore children’s party hats, cut a cake with Donald Trump written on it and sang ‘Happy Baarday Donaald Trump’ as they fed a piece of cake to a poster of him holding a gun. When the organizer of this event was asked why his Hindu Sena was celebrating Trump’s 70th birthday in Jantar Mantar he said, ‘he is the saviour of humanity because he is going to rid the world of jihadi terrorism’. Then cries of Bharat Mata ki Jai rang out as this comical group fed each other lumps of cake. Trump’s Indian birthday party was so hilarious that clips found their way on to YouTube and into the pages of international newspapers. Under the hilarity there was a dark side to this celebration. Trump’s popularity among Hindu fanatics is growing only because of his threat to ban Muslim immigrants from entering the United States.
It is not just lunatic fringe Hindutva groups that love this kind of talk but far too many elected members of the BJP. They seemed to emerge in droves last week. Almost daily we heard BJP voices raising an alarm against transgressions by Muslims that were allegedly causing Hindu families to flee a place nobody had heard of before called Kairana. The local MP led the charge and when reporters, including from this newspaper, went to investigate they found that his story was a wild exaggeration. This did not stop the president of the BJP from mentioning Kairana in his speech at the BJP convention in Allahabad last Sunday. Why? Does this signal a revival of the ugly religiosity that swept through the country in the days when Shri Lal Krishna Advani traveled on his chariot to Ayodhya to build that temple?
Is there a revival of earlier exercises in ‘Islamizing’ the Sanatan Dharma? For decades ‘intellectuals’ in the RSS camp have been advising leaders of this ‘cultural’ organization to strengthen Hinduism by making it more like Islam. It is a dangerously stupid idea because if such a project ever took off it would destroy everything that makes India’s religions so able to deal with change and modernity. The great strength of the Indic religions is that they do not believe that theirs is the only truth and theirs the only God. This must not change.
What must change is the attitude of political Hindutva elements within the BJP if it wants to win the UP elections. Those who have been given charge of the campaign need to quickly discover that disputes over temples and mosques are no longer as important as they once were. Young Hindu Indians have changed and are not even slightly unsure of who they are or what they want. They voted for Narendra Modi in 2014 because he seemed to be the only political leader who had understood what they wanted. He articulated this perfectly in the two words that defined the campaign in 2014: parivartan and vikas.
Unfortunately those two words have been heard too little from his party men in recent months. The Prime Minister continues to emphasize them when he speaks but there are others who speak more often than him and they screech about Muslims, beef and temples. If there are those in the higher ranks of the BJP who believe that this will help win UP, they are very, very mistaken.
So if Kairana is the new battlefield to test out the campaign for UP (and it seems to be) then I am ready to stick my neck out and predict that the BJP faces defeat in India’s most populous state. There are still some months left before the campaign really begins so there is time to put back firmly into the box the kind of people who stirred up trouble over Kairana last week. There is also time to make elected representatives from UP go to their constituencies and build those ‘model villages’ the Prime Minister asked them to. And time to prove that the other programmes he initiated work on the ground.
For his part the Prime Minister needs to put in place a team of experts who can take charge of transforming Varanasi in the next few months. He could begin by kicking out the team that has been handling this so far because they have achieved nothing more than a few small, cosmetic changes. It is also time to put the cleaning of the Ganga into the hands of international experts with experience of cleaning rivers like the Thames and the Danube. There is no point in tasking officials with this job. If they had been capable of doing it, the Ganga would have been clean a decade ago. Meanwhile the Hindu Sena would do well to change its name to Trump Sena so they can stop making India look like a joke.